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This study assesses the impact of international border walls on evaluations of countries and on beliefs about bilateral relationships between states. Using a short video, we experimentally manipulate whether a border wall image appears in a broader description of the history and culture of a little-known country. In a third condition, we also indicate which bordering country built the wall. Demographically representative samples from the United States, Ireland, and Turkey responded similarly to these experimental treatments. Compared to a control group, border walls lowered evaluations of the bordering countries. They also signified hostile international relationships to third-party observers. Furthermore, the government of the country responsible for building the wall was evaluated especially negatively. Reactions were consistent regardless of people’s predispositions toward walls in their domestic political context. Our findings have important implications for a country’s attractiveness, or “soft power,” an important component of nonmilitary influence in international relations.


International relations, national security, border hardening, public opinion, empirical studies, soft power, conflict, hostility, political & social geography, social psychology

Publication Title

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Publication Citation

Proc. Nat'l Acad. Sciences, v. 119, no. 4, January 25, 2022